Tottenham Hotspur ensured there was no Champions League hangover as they scraped past Crystal Palace courtesy of a terrific second-half strike by Son Heung-min.
After their sensational midweek victory over Real Madrid, Spurs could ill-afford to slip up at home to the Premier League’s whipping boys.
Palace proved to be stubborn opposition and it took until after the hour mark for Mauricio Pochettino’s charges to break the resistance.
The visitors had several gilt-edged chances to salvage at least a point, but their ninth defeat of the campaign keeps them stranded at the foot of the table, already five points adrift of safety.
Here are three talking points…
A landmark afternoon for match-winner Son Heung-min
Taking place on Bonfire Night, this was a game that was lit-up by a wonderful goal by Son. He is now the Premier League’s leading Asian scorer with 20 – and he achieved that landmark in fine style. After an attack had only been half-cleared, Son collected the ball on the edge of the box and curled it past Julian Speroni. It proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The former Bayer Leverkusen star has become a key player for Spurs, without ever really becoming a mainstay of the starting XI. His 20 top-flight goals have come from 72 appearances, many of those from the substitutes’ bench. His versatility makes him an ideal utility man for Pochettino, who can always rely on the South Korean to turn in a whole-hearted performance.
Roy Hodgson left to rue missed opportunities
Although Palace struggled in terms of possession, they had 11 shots on goal and one more on target than their opponents. Eagles boss Roy Hodgson will be scratching his head as to how his side failed to score, in particular Wilfried Zaha who somehow missed an open goal after rounding Spurs’ third-choice keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Palace Eagles have looked much more organised since the former England manager took the reins, but have only four points to show from the seven matches he has overseen. Getting the ball in the net is their biggest problem. With only four goals to their name, they are by some distance the lowest scorers in the Premier League. Hodgson may have made Palace harder to beat, but he has much work to do at the other end of the pitch.
Paulo Gazzaniga enjoys a debut to remember
With Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm both sidelined through injury, Pochettino was forced to call on the 25-year-old Argentinian to deputise between the posts. Given that Palace were the opposition, he probably thought he’d be in for a quiet afternoon at the national stadium. However, Gazzaniga played a crucial role in his side’s victory, with some fantastic saves to keep the Eagles at bay. The highlight was a brilliant to stop to deny Scott Dann’s goal-bound header.
It can’t have been easy to make his debut in such circumstances, but aside from a couple of anxious moments he equipped himself very well. Although the excellent Lloris will walk back into the starting XI when fully fit, Gazzaniga has proved himself to be a more than capable understudy.